Louis Armstrong at the Sphinx

During the Cold War, the United States made the case for the American way of life by sending its best ambassadors abroad — jazz musicians. “Music that was unique to America and represented a fusion of African and African-American cultures with other traditions was a democratic art form that helped others to understand the open-minded and creative sensibility of our country,” writes the Jam Session web site.

As part of this cultural diplomacy, Louis Armstrong went to Egypt in 1961 where he played trumpet for his wife, Lucille, at the foot of the Great Sphinx and the pyramids in Giza.

“Operation: Sand” By Karate

Karate was a Boston-based band formed in 1993 with Geoff Farina (singer/guitar), Eamonn Vitt (bass), and Gavin McCarthy (drums). Bassist Jeff Goddard joined in 1995, and Vitt moved on to second guitar until his departure in 1997 to pursue medicine.

In 1998 the three-piece released released a 7″ vinyl featuring “Operation: Sand” and “Empty There” as its B-side. Karate’s music was always hard to categorize (it wasn’t quite rock, it wasn’t quite jazz), but without the second guitar, their music grew more sparse and relied more on the rhythm section. The 7″ set the stage for the sound of The Bed Is In The Ocean, their third full-length released later that same year.

“Operation: Sand” is one of my all-time favorite songs. it’s intricate in all the right ways and lyrically mysterious. Two versions can be found below, and the 7″ was reissued in 2015 and can be purchased via Southern Records here.

Studio recording:

Live recording:

Vonnegut on Gun Control

“My wife has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being. It is called a firearm. It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, at a distance: that something die.

There is evil for you.

We cannot get rid of mankind’s fleetingly wicked wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.

I give you a holy word: DISARM.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick